We first came to Giant because it was Cheap! Our band sucked and we needed a LOT of rehearsal. Before too long I was working with Fred and Jeff, this was in the early 80’s. There are so many memories (most of them incredibly foggy) that I don’t even know where to start. So many bands, so much music, so many friends.
New York City and 38th St. in 1979
The city was an amazing place in 1979. Punk Rock and Hip Hop were starting to grow from their births in the few preceding years. New York was starting to have clubs pop up all over the place. Live music was flourishing. It was everywhere all over the city. All of the dance clubs incorporated live music. Clubs such as CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, Mudd Club, Hurrahs, The Latin Quarter, The Roxy to name a few were all exploding with energy and creativity. The sexual revolution was hitting its peak. Drugs were everywhere (and I mean everywhere!). Rents were dirt cheap and you needed very little to get by. New York had just pretty much hit rock bottom as far as the economy. There was a sense of danger and wildness all around the city, especially at night. Big brother was not breathing down your neck as he does now. People sold weed in the streets and parks. They would smoke in the movie theaters and openly in some places. Prostitutes were all over certain areas. The need for places to practice, music rehearsal studios, was on the rise as more and more bands were being formed. The city was alive with many different kinds of music as it always had been. But with the aesthetic of punk rock you didn’t need to know how to play to have a band. You just had to show up and start playing. And show up they did.
The area where Giant first started was on 38th St. between 7th and 8th Ave. just below Times Square, which had reached the apex of pornography and drugs. In the day it was a mix of business, the fashion district and import-export. As the night would progress the vice from 8th Ave. and Times Square would filter into the surround blocks. On every corner was some hustle, some shady character. You always had to watch your back and be aware of what was going on. Times Square action was round the clock as was all the comings and goings of the blocks that surrounded it. 8th Ave. was more like Times Square. It had a lot of porn shops mixed with clothing and electronics stores. 7th Ave. had more big business buildings that pretty much closed down at night. This period of time was fuel for the fire for Giant Studios.
Giant’s First Customer
Giant’s first customer (before it was called Giant) was The Ed Palermo Big Band. It was a weekday from 3:00-6:00 pm. in 1981 a couple months after the place was built. I still had the small rooms rented out for living. Studio B was my room. Studio C was rented to Joe Pehrson, a classical composer who had recently moved to NY from Detroit. A bathing suit model from Metuchen, NJ Karen O’Shea lived in Studio D. A budding jazz guitarist, James Zucker, who we all knew as Jimbo lived in Studio E. Thad Wheeler was in Studio F. He practiced and stored his drums there.
Anyway, about 5 minutes into the rehearsal, Mark Epstein from the 3rd floor who had a print business called IZMO yells up the elevator shaft, “Cut the noise, were trying to work down here!” I’ll never forget Ed yelling back, “No you shut up, I’m paying for this time!” A light bulb went off in my head and Giant was born.
The Office – 1981
This was my first office. The year is 1981. There was no Giant yet. The loft space was all living spaces and I had just started a health food supplement business called Creative Arts Marketing.
Elizabeth Parcells Tales of Hoffmann The Doll Song
A picture of my sister Betsy in Costume from the Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach as Chanson d’Olympia singing the doll song is propped up on my desk along with a box of 3 x 5 cards, a can of Bud and a piano bench for a seat; all the necessary tools of upper management. I had this same desk through all 12 years of Giant.
It was in September 1979 that my parents drove my sister and I to the airport. That afternoon she flew off to Frankfurt Germany to sing Opera while I went to New York to play Jazz. Both of us were ready to conquer the world and make our mark with music.
- Fred P.
First Giant Business Cards
Here are the first two business cards from Giant on 38th St. The one on the top was the first one.
Recording In Studio B
Copernicus – Press Release
Copernicus would show up now again at Giant.
Usually the Giant parties. I would hear most of
the tales of Copernicus’ adventures through Fred
who would tell great stories of hanging out with the guy.
I toured many times all over the world with Copernicus.
St Marys Children of Salvation
Eddie Gregg (guitar) was in this band. Shortly after he went to jail they went on the road and became a successful touring band. The sharpie additions to this photo were in keeping with Giant rule #1: “Yo, you’re band sucks”
Juli Kohl Delmar Brown Lou Soloff Adam Nusbaum Rael Wesley Grant
Juli Kohl at 55 Grand Nov. 2, 1984
Juli Kohl – Jazz Vocalist
Larry Willis Piano
Rael Wesley Grant Bass
Ricky Sebastion Drums
Bruce Williamson Sax Flute
Fred Hersch piano Jane Ira Bloom soprano sax 1984
Fred Hersch was a classmate of mine at The New England Conservatory of Music in 1976.This is a poster for a gig at Washington Square Church with Jane Ira Bloom soprano sax, Billy Drewes woodwinds, Ratzo Harris bass, and Joey Baron percussion.
Giant Newsletter Vol 2 Issue 1 1985
Brian Bones Drums
Kenny Jack Bass Vocals
Fred Parcells Electric Trombone
Mark Dymon Lead Vocals Rhythm Guitar Piano
Joe Thunderhead Lead Guitar
Metal: Here To Stay? by Don Slaughter
The Interns of Dub
L H Craig Guitar Vocals
“Dreaded” Eddie Gregg Lead Guitar
Andy Moore Percussion
Paul Stark Bass
Pam Fleming Trumpet
Fred Parcells Trombone
Jimmy Daniel Drums
Jeff Meyers Bass
Alan Schwartz Guitar
Alec Schanzies Keyboard
Reggie B. Vocals
And they’re still going in 2017
I especially enjoyed the thought provoking article on “Why Metal Is Here to Stay” by Don Slaughter.
The Village Voice 4/3/1985 Benefit for Eddie Gregg CBGB
Oh my god!
that is fucking awesome!
Brings back big memories.
Half of the bands playing that week were bands that rehearsed at Giant.
Jaco showed up earlier in the day and ended up somehow getting kicked out of CBGBS. How the hell do you do that?
PMS were an awesome band with 2 cuban sisters and a witchy blonde
and errr.. (brain strain) some other girl.
Hit by a Truck was a guy and two girls. They had a great song
called “Stuck in an Elevator” based on the experience of getting
stuck in the Giant elevator. Garbage were friends of Eddie’s.
Kretins I cant remember for the life of me.
We were all in shock about Eddie who was part of the Giant family.
Damn! Those were the days
Robert Een and John Kuhlman at Roulette
Robert Een and John Kuhlman at Roulette
Oct. 7, 1986
Robert Een Cello and Voice
John Kuhlman Accordion Guitar Piano Voice
Andrea Goodman Voice
Naaz Hosseini Voice
George Arevelo Pedal Steel
Fred Parcells Trombone
Ben Neill Trumpet
Carlos Vivanco Guitar
Jeff Meyers Bass
John was my roommate for most of the time I lived in NYC. Robert lived upstairs in our building at 520 E. 12th St.
Percy Jones Bill Frisell Dougie Bowne
The New Interns of Dub meet The Dreaded Eddie
Juli Kohl – Jazz Vocalist
Juli Kohl at 55 Grand
Juli Kohl – Jazz Vocalist
Larry Willis Piano
Rael Wesley Grant Bass
Ricky Sebastion Drums
Bruce Williamson Sax Flute
Juli Kohl at 101 Greene St
Lisette Wilson Piano
Darryl Jones Bass
Juli turned me on to the infamous Spencer of 55 Grand where a lot of great Jazz lived.
DST and Des Refuses in Montreal – January 1983
I was in this band called Des Refuses. That band later turned into The Rumprollers. But anyway, one of the coolest gigs we did was in Canada with DST, an early rap artist who later went on to play with Herbie Hancock. We got snowed in after the gig and I was the only one who was crazy enough to drive back so DST gave me his whole record collection to bring back to NY for safe keeping. I stored those records at Giant till he arrived back. He had the best collection of grooves imaginable. I taped hours of those sides and later used them as the background for my Radio Game tapes.
Paul Steven Ray
My Carnegie Debut
On Sept. 28, 1984 I played at Carnegie Recital Hall with AUMN.
Paul Steven Ray (vibraphone)
Vernon Reid (guitar),
Julian Thayer (bass)
Ciro Baptista (precussion)
Dougie Bowne (drums)
Except for this gig, the band was usually Rael Wesley Grant on bass and without Ciro on percussion. I played trombone thru a full compliment of guitar pedals, especially the old yellow overdrive. When Vernon was taking a solo I would lean the bell of my horn into his amp catching some of his sounds. My whole instrument would vibrate causing his sound to be picked up and processed in a really weird ethereal way. With the angle of my horn I could control the amount of feedback. Then I would sing notes into the mouthpiece which gave me control over the pitch. After a while I was able to produce Vernon’s melody lines only harmonized with bizarre intervals.
After this gig we recorded an album called Wild Air with Eduardo Datcha Tenucci replacing Vernon on guitar, Gregg Carter replacing Dougie on Drums, and Cosa Ross taking Ciro’s percussion spot.
Giant Night at The Dive – OOH NO!
The first Giant Party 9/21/1984
I must of B.Y.O’d my own on this one..because I cant remember one damn thing about it!
The Giant Studios site used to exist as a BBS. This image was always the number one image that was searched and viewed. Over the years it has received millions of hits. If this is why you are viewing it then …WELCOME!
Paquito D’Rivera – 1983
When Paquito D’Rivera the great Cuban saxophonist came to New York he was signed to CBS Records. He did a demo recording at Giant with his band. I remember Montego hanging out for that session and being pretty excited about it.
Notice the two long black and white oil painted panels hanging over the drummer? Those were done by Bill Brunson, an artist from NC who lived in the building of my first apartment at 620 E. 6th St. When Giant moved to 14th I gave the panels back to him for safe keeping.
Montego Joe and Michael Antelis 1983
What can I say, but Montego! He was the spirit of Giant in those early days. Percussionist extraordinaire. He conducted conga classes in Studio C early on. He was a regular for 10 years after that. He had a monthly room at 14th St as well. Always a gentleman, always cool.
Montego is the best! A monster of a musician and a great wise soul.
Here are some way cool pix I found. Montego played with just about everyone. He even played on Cat Scratch Fever!!.
Article: Latin Symposium The Conga Drum by Montego Joe
www.comosuena.com ::: ©2011, Rafael Figueroa Hernández
° Joe, Montego. “Latin Symposium: the Conga Drums”. Modern Percussionist. Vol. 1, no. 2, (1985) p. 24-26
Michael Antelis brought in an 8-track recording studio, set it up in Studio B, and we became partners for a time. I’ll never forget cutting my hand pretty badly installing the double glass window in the wall between Studio B, the control room, and Studio A, the recording room. I fainted it was so deep.
Michael played Bass with
an Israeli vocalist/guitarist. They recorded their first album at Giant called Piamenta. After Michael left Giant, he changed his name to Moshe Antelis and went on to play and record with many Israeli and Klezmer Bands. I think he still lives in Brooklyn.
Just about all of the NYC hardcore scene went through Giant, both on 38th and 14th St. Bands such as Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, War Zone, Underdog, Sick of it All, Nausea, PMS, Scab, Reagan Youth, Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Sheer Terror to name few.
These bands were highly influential on a lot of the derivative rock that came after it.
The funny thing is that most of them were cool friendly people.
The scene flourished through hardcore matinees at CBGB. A lot of violence at those events that eventually led to the end of the matinees.
The drummer from AF was the coolest guy, he had a tattoo of a burning building with people jumping out of it all the way down his arm. He was one of the nicest guys! He’d come in early to set up the drums, when Fred had the 3 dollar an hour drum rooms he’d come in to play for an hour and I’d let him play for 3 hours or until the next band came in.
His tats were when tats were still very dangerous, but he was just the nicest guy. He’d bring me coffee’s in the morning.
The first groups that rehearsed at Giant were Big Bands. Studio A was big enough to comfortably hold 25 musicians sitting down with music stands. It was early 1982 and Studio A was my living room. It was a pleasure to have Toshiko’s band raising the rafters in my house. In those days among the jazz guys, Giant was just known as Fred’s place.
SOUP/The Patrick Brennan Ensemble at the Donnell Public Library 20 W 53rd
I moved to New York to play jazz. In 1980 I hooked up with Patrick Brennan, a composer/alto saxophonist. Many a late night was spent in his loft on 26th St. practicing Charlie Parker, Monk, and a host of other great modern jazz standards. Soon though we set our sights on Patrick’s original tunes. The difficulty level of his compositions I can only compare to George Russell although Patrick had different time signatures and tempos going simultaneously adding another level of complexity. It was almost impossible to play. I used to walk home from those sessions at 4 in the morning with my head hanging low. I never felt I did his music justice. Those sessions did produce two excellent albums though. INTRODUCING:SOUP/The Patrick Brennan Ensemble and MOLTEN OPPOSITES.
We used to play The Montreal Jazz Festival. I remember staying with Patrick Darby there who had a huge ‘out jazz’ collection. I spent hours making tapes from his records. I got to work with the amazing Bern Nix the guitarist from Ornette Coleman. Another special treat was working with Marvin Blackman tenor saxophone. After a few years I couldn’t take the frustration level of feeling I would never get my arms around this music. I broke off from Patrick who was about to leave the country for Europe and joined Greg Alper’s band Dog Eat Dog and Marc Holen’s band The Rumprollers, and The Fabulous Flint Brothers who were more song based with instrumental solos. I started getting a lot more gigs.
Studio A – In 1982
I had just moved back to 12th St and Ave B with John Kuhlman. I didn’t take much with me so there was a lot of stuff to recycle for studio use. Of course you can never have enough couches. The mattress became a sound baffle for recording sessions. It got lots of use in other ways. In fact Giant was home to many a wayward musician. Delmar Brown of Bush Rock used to grab that mattress into Studio D and crash. He let me lock him in at the end of the night. The next morning I would have customers waiting outside for me to open up. Imagine their surprise when I let them into the room only to wake up Delmar, looking like a homeless person.
One of the craziest Giant characters has to be Jaco. There was a period where he started coming not only to play but to just hang out.
For those who don’t know him..Jaco Pastorius is called one of the greatest bass players who ever lived..but whether he was or not he was definitely somewhat of a madman at times. When he wasn’t drinking or drugging he seemed somewhat normal.
I remember him coming into the studio once..he was wasted out of his mind. His face was painted in war paint and he looked like he hadn’t bathed in a week. He had duck tape wrapped around each of his joints..so wrists, elbows ankles and knees.
Jaco had an apartment in the village and the windows of it eventually were busted out and he had all these homeless people living in his house with him. Jaco loved the street and street people.
He died in the late 80’s after getting in an argument with a bouncer in Florida (his home state) and was beaten to death.
Someone with a better memory has to tell the story of him set up to play at CBGB’s at the Dreaded Eddie benefit.
Jaco used to come to the studio a few hours before rehearsal. He would go into the big room (Studio A) and plug into the Acoustic 360 Bass amp. The most amazing stuff would eminate from that room. And I mean amazing. The definition of impossible runs, licks, scales, changes, and effortlessly…he was truly amazing. About a half hour before the scheduled rehearsal time his manager showed up. Jaco would demand money from him for “operating costs”. Jaco would disappear for an hour. When he got back he was definitely high. He went back into the studio to rehearse with the group who had been waiting for him now for almost an hour. They started playing and he sounded really average – like any other bass player. Such a shame how a great talent gets wasted like that. Jaco was talented all around. During the breaks in rehearsal he used to draw cartoons on the back of the Giant business cards. Jeff Meyers, a bass player and good friend who worked at Giant, once asked Jaco for one of the drawings. So Jeff, if you are out there, will you scan that and post it to this board?
Jaco drew this of Joe Bannon in 1985.
He would play in the mornings like Fred said and Oh what a sound, sometimes he would ask for several bass amp heads to link together. He blew up the big Marshall guitar head in the Big Room more than once. His manager was SUPER SLEAZY, He seemed like a cut rate pimp or something. Jaco would demand money “for operating expenses” and the manager guy would hand over a 5 dollar bill which Jaco would just hand to me saying “Take care of us today kid” and he’d go back into the room and I’d hand the 5 bucks back to the manager. He was a great bass player and an unusual character.
Aggravated Assualt in the D room.
Aggravated assualt always rehearsed in the D room. How much was that? I think it was like $6 and hour. It was a small room..but cheapskates would put whole orchestras in there. AA was death metal? hardcore? speed metal? Whatever they were, for a band called Aggravated Assault they were the frendliest 3 guys you would ever want to meet. The singer was tall and gangly and he always had his mike way in the air like the dude in Moterhead. The bass player was always smiling..and Erick Talbert!! played drums. I played in a couple of bands with Eric..Flophouse Society Orchestra, The Family Clone and some other Bosco project later on. Maybe another one that im blanking out. They (Eric not included..I think he was straight edge or something back then) would always smoke crack rolled up with weed. Once I went on Roach Patrol (Roach Patrol: a process of going room to room and collecting as many roaches as possible to make a joint ..or in the case of 14th street Giant, several joints) and forgot they were in the room earlier. Halfway through smoking the joint I realized that this wasnt just your combo of street and good weed..that shit got me fucked up! Such were the perils of Roach Patrol.
You know who were great regulars up at 38 were UNDERDOG. They could really play that sort of tuneful hardcore thing, their guitar player and drummer kicked ass, they came to own the CBs Sunday all-ages hardcore matinees, they were really young and that blonde haired guitar player/lead guy was SUPER nice. I wonder what happened to all those really earnest hardcore kinds?
Wasn’t Bad Acid Disco Experience a Paul and Eric Talbert production?
No..that was me that produced that stuff..Might release sum of it at a later date..although some of it is on a tape i foolishly gave Jay Wacko..and he left it out in a barn. So along with all of his 8 track stuff needs to be baked.
We should all invest in a baking machine. And I’m not referring to a bong.
Janitor Days (1984-85)
So I was living for $100/month in my friend Tod’s apartment on West 111th Street, having moved uptown when his parents moved out and left the place to disintegrate. We never did dishes and we had roaches all over the house, thousands of them. Hubel lived a couple blocks away, we’d meet for breakfast at like 2 or 3 in the afternoon on weekdays then go back to one of our places to write songs. And John Berry’s Hell House with Bosco and the Beastie Boys hanging out and Big fat Love taking shape was only 11 blocks down Broadway. The upper West Side was oddly fertile with scuzz back then.
Anyway I had occasional work but I was pretty much drinking all day every day and just sleeping late, writing songs, recording on my Portastudio, smoking pot and drinking at the bars at night. I guess Eric put the bug in my ear that Giant could use a janitor, and that was about the only work I was qualified for, so I took the gig. I am grateful to Fred for giving me any kind of work then, I sure was a messed up little puppy!
I would hang with Craig and sometimes Jersey Jeff Jerzin, as Eric called him, on the day shift, we used to order from that coffee shop next door (Andrews?) — you’d call in and order like 10 things and the guy would always say “And what else?”
Anyway, I would come in, pick the cigarette butts and beer cans out of the rehearsal rooms from the night before, vacuum, do Roach Patrol, and clean that ratty little toilet that was situated uncomfortably close to the front desk. I remember over the toilet was a bunch of graffiti, some of which our drummer Doug Ryan immortalized one night while pissing. We were all hanging out in the reception area, I think it was right after an all-night after-hours Giant jam so like everybody was there, and no one was saying much cuz we were all baked, and suddenly out of the bathroom you hear Doug singing, in the manner of a medieval round or a Gentle Giant prog tune: “Flush the toilet you fuckin’ pigs / One-to-One / Motherfuckin’ toilet / Flush the toilet you fuckin’ pigs / One-to-One / Motherfuckin’ toilet… ”
‘You’re beginning to look a lot like Zebeto’
Wasn’t Zebeto the lead singer of Pe De Boi, the “Power Samba” outfit that played at 38th a lot? I just remember one Christmas season, Hubel started singing that to the tune of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”
He sadly passed away years ago. Sapel is my neighbour..he was the co-leader of Pe De Boi. He mad cool. I will post a story about them and Jaco Pastorious once that thread gets started.
That’s sad about Zebeto. I’m really happy that so many of us are still alive, to be honest.
Zbeto was also the lead singer in the amazing Jimmy Daniel band Brazuka! Which also featured some pretty incredible talent including Ciro Batista, who has gone on to amass quite and impressive discography. What a crazy cool bunch of guys!
Ok..Zbeto sang with Brazuka..He was a tv star down in Brazil..He was very…errrr..flamboiant. He did pass away.
THe other bandleader for Pe De Boi..who’s name escapes me also died.
Pe De Boi would play in Central Park and gather a crowd of 1000’s. They would do capoera and have hot scantily clad dancers shaking their asses.
Now you cant even play a kazoo in the park without the cops kicking you out.
Guilherme Franco was the leader of Pe De Boi
Man they were ALWAYS great to have in the big room, those chicks were SOOOO hot!
I Got A New Pair o’ Shoes and other cover tunes
Anybody remember that chick who always came in and covered the disco/Pointer Sisters “classic” “New Attitude”? And I think it was Hubel or Craig who started singing “I got a new pair of shoes” really loud?
And how about the weird out of tune version of “Thunder Only Happens When It’s Raining,” always wafting down the hall from the elevator end studio (I forget the letters)…
Or the Yuh Boys’s awesome version of “16 Tons” (those guys were great).
King Hell Bummer (jam)
Are you talking about the after hours jam we did at 38th like right before we moved the studio to 14th? And Michael Craig was so messed up sitting on the floor in the big studio with his red guitar playing that 8-note guitar lick from “Black Magic Woman” like in half time, over and over and over again? I recall copious amounts of weed and alcohol and just some really funny, retarded playing… and Craig’s face as completely zoned as anyone has ever been!
Is that the King Hell Bummer to which you refer?
anybody got a coppy of that???
I am soooo glad I had a stage name back then! It’s nice you could make out the song Peet, I don’t think I EVER put the 8 Notes in the correct order!
Man, you were getting really close by the half hour mark!
The Triplets 1984
Glenn McDermott was their manager. They were in an MTV contest with their video from the song, “Boys”. It was a call in to win sort of thing so Glenn told everyone he know that he would pay the 99 cents per call on the 900 contest number, I was reimbursed for about $125 for all the calls I made. It paid off, they won and got to record and release an album. Pretty much the entire band was replaced with studio musicians for the album. Thad for instance (who was a pretty damn good drummer and worked on Broadway) was relegated to playing “percussion” while Anton Fig came in to play drums. Jeff Myers was fired from the band, and his on again off again relationship turned “on for good” several years ago when he and Vicky got married (in Vegas I think). Jeff and Vicky live in a house in Studio City in California with her sister Sylvia.
The Triplets Vicky, Sylvia and Dianna, are a pop band based on three sisters of Irish and Mexican descent who are triplets. They came to Giant via Michael Antelis who played Bass in the group. Michael was my partner at Giant for a year or so. He had an 8 track recording studio which we moved into Studio B. With a window looking into the ‘giant’ room (Studio A) it was a pretty sweet setup. A lot of groups recorded there.
The Triplets soon became a fixture. Jeff Meyers who worked at the studio at the time replaced Michael on bass and started going out with one of the triplets. As far as I know they are still together. I saw a show they did at the Lime Light. Those girls could sing great harmony. It was a good show, although the songs were a little too polished for my taste. Besides The Triplets and Jeff, Steve Tarshis played guitar and Thad Wheeler played drums.
Angat was the first rock band I played in in New York. By putting a trombone thru a harmonizer and into a Marshall I became the rhythm guitar. The band consisted of Mark – lead singer, Joe Thunderhead – lead guitar, Kenny Jack – Band Leader and Bass, Brian – Drums, and me. Angat was a Gothic Deathrock band. The word Angat means ‘when the devil comes to earth as a serpent’. We played a few Giant Nights, which were basically parties where 5 or 6 bands from the studio would perform while everybody else drank the free beer, usually kegs of Brooklyn Lager. I made sure there was plenty. In these pictures we are recording a song called ‘Post Time’, a song about a compulsive gambler. We eventually made a video using the tracks recorded on the 8-track at Giant. It was in fact at that video shoot where I met my future wife Ellin who was a production assistant at the time.
The Wonderful White Piano
So I break up with my girlfriend and move to w38th St., the heart of the music rehearsal district. It’s Fall 1983 or 4 — I was a pretty good piano player & I needed a place to practice so I crack open “The Voice” & see this ad for Giant “Talk to “The Doc” — So It turns out that the place is nearly across the street so I call & it seems I can weasel my way in there & practice for a mere $5 bucks an hour. So I head over one afternoon & get in the elevator somewhere around the 4th floor I start to hear this strange din –I get up to 6 & the door opens and cautiously walk into most chaotic shit my green self had ever seen or heard. I make my way down this hallway of studios where the totality of conflicting music makes the floor do one thing, the walls do another — but there’s nothing quite like a sudden stray bass note rattles the tin ceiling in a way that makes you realize you’ve just entered rock & roll hell. So I make my way down the hall–there’s punk rock & reggae flyers every where & these really cool Sean Taggart posters. I get to the desk/reception area & there’s Mike, He make’s me feel right at home.
Studio “A” was open and happened to be a big funky room with this beat to shit looking white grand piano. So I sat down at it &was pleasantly surprised. The thing sounded & felt wonderful.
So over the next few weeks I get back in to play & gradually get to know the crazy cast of characters who work at or frequent the place. Some of these guys are serious musicians with a real scene going on while most of the bands/clients were punk/ska /death medal/ hard core/ ….whatever flew .. the place was kind of like a skating rink or bowling ally.
So one day .. a few weeks in I’m playing the piano in studio A —- at this point I don’t think they were even charging me any more …In the room Fred (the low key proprietor of Giant) was struggling to put this huge air conditioner in what was once a window. I helped him out with it and soon enough got drawn into the Giant work force.
I was to become “A Studio Guy”
And then what happened?
So my first night was going smooth until this kid comes out of studio C and asks for help with the PA– So I go in & this Metal crack head kid is standing on the Smiley Bros piano– I take a look at the pa (one of those solid state Yamahas with the knobs on top.It didn’t look quite right .. there was a knocked over mike stand near by & I pieced together that the kid let loose on the board with the mike stand bottom — but what the fuck did I know — was the board like that before ?? there was a lot of beat up gear at giant. The interns were all down the hall in Jimmy D’s rehearsing Paul & Michael dealt with it somehow– I think the band was called Nevermore– and after that they NEVER rehearsed at Giant any MORE.
It’s funny how a (at that time) skinny little punk like me (even with Paul’s muscle) could walk into a room with some deranged punks and BAN THEM FOR LIFE! As I recall I had two beers on the way into the room and three after it was over just to CHILL.. I guess I ruined that rehearsal that night!
Jimmy Daniel was, and probably still is, the embodiment of a what is a musician. At 38th St. Giant he lived and breathed music. When he wasn’t practicing his drums he was playing them out live with one of the multitude of bands that he played with. He had his own projects as well as hiring himself out to anyone that would pay and he was in demand because he played like mutha fucka!
Jimmy rented a room for awhile at Giant that was just off to your left as you got off the eleveator into a small entrance way. The other door on your right led to the rest of Giant.
He grew up in Indiana and played drums from an early age ending up in John Cougar Mellencamp’s band in the years leading up to his first huge success. Jimmy told me that they tried all kinds of styles and gimmicks, one of them being a glam band wearing make up and women’s clothing.
Micheal Craig and I started jamming some reggae music with Jimmy. At that time we were in The New Interns of Dub. This led to a band being formed that included future The Interns band members Marlon Graves and Ray Martin. We would play reggae covers of Bob Marley, Steel Pulse and such.
He was a great person to know. He always had great stories to tell and his love for music and musical energy would rub off on you and spurn you on to play as great as he did.
Jimmy had this stencil that he identified everything he gigged with that said “shut-up-and-play” I spray-painted it on my guitar case. It really said everything about his attitude! “That’s the SHIT” he would say when the groove really hit the pocket. Jimmy’s love for music and support of people like me (and to a lesser extent Paul, because Paul has TALENT), really made me feel musically comfortable, even around professional musicians. A huge influence on me and the Interns, I can’t thank Jimmy enough for everything he ever did for me!
Famous actress Stockard Channing was one of the residents of the building on 38th street. I was a pretty big fan of hers, but she gave me a strange look when I got off on the 6th floor and was never incredibly friendly after that.
The 1st Giant was a place where a diverse group found a place where, even if they didn’t fit in, they were still accepted. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with such a diverse crowd. My earliest days there were with a band called the Interns of Dub. My downstairs neighbor in Brooklyn, Eddy, was a fixture, holding late night jam sessions that included all sorts of players (including some of the guys from Motorhead). I started working at Giant about 3 months later. Fred had actually just gotten back from some trip and Fred’s assistant had been watching the store. At that point there were some very nefarious characters populating the space (rumor had it that in Fred’s absence the kitchen area had been turned into a staging and weighing station for some very bad guys). Upon Fred’s return and my employment, Fred hired one of the greatest Giant characters ever: Mario Mendoza. The competitive weightlifter and erstwhile guitarist was a fixture at 38th street. He was hired as the cleaning crew, but Mario was much more than that. Part janitor, part bodyguard, part bouncer, Mario would make his presence known to everyone who entered the place. As he would clean, he would pick up everything in his path. “Is this yours?” he would ask as he tried to clean around the desk. Moving around the waiting area, “Is this yours?” as he moved guitars of band members waiting to get into rooms. I remember saying that he wasn’t being very accommodating to customers but I guess that was his prerogative. He responded to me “It’s not my prerogative, it’s my choice!” He could be the mellowest guy you ever met then in an instant you could say something completely innocuous and it would cause him to snap. Trust me a pissed off Mario was the last thing that ANYONE at Giant wanted to see. I must admit that he is one of the few people in my life I ever thought might actually KILL me. We had legendary disagreements that I’m sure know one could tell you what they were about. But he was Mario, and he was a major part of that era of Giant. Fred made sure that the mix at Giant was always… eclectic.
Mario competed in the Olympics (not sure what year) and won silver or bronze in the clean and jerk. He was friends with Arnold Shwartzenegger back in the days. He told me that he grew up in Belize (I think?). His mother worked for a diplomat and he was treated as part of the family. At least this is what he told me.
A great Mario story comes to mind. The landlord of the building was running the freight elevator..and somehow Mario got into some huge screaming argument with him. The landlord was so offended that he went to the basement and turned of all of the electricity to Giant. This was while several bands were rehearsing in the rooms. Mario continued to scream at the top of his lungs at the landlord next to the elevator shaft. I heard one of the rooms shouting help. The whole place was pitch black. I went to try and get them out of the room and the doorknob came off in my hand. So here was the studio with no light..and a mad man screaming his head off with the band not knowing what the hell was going on.
Of course we cant forget “Rent a Pick”. Being a resourceful man Mario had put a sign up that said “Rent a Pick.. 5 cents”. He would sell drumsticks and such…run out for food and drinks.
He truly was one of the great Giant characters.
He made an apperance years later…all scraggily. He said he was driving a van around the U.S. with a young woman accompanying him.
Just found these from my parents house.
Michael reminds me that Astrud Gilberto (The Girl From Ipanema) rehearsed at Giant more than a few times. I can still smell her perfume. It was kind of like a patchouli oil… when ever I smell it I hear her sweet sexy voice! I wonder if she heard of us from one of the Latin or Brazilian groups who used the studio. Stan Getz rehearsed a quartet at Giant early on. They knew each other so that could be the hookup. I’m pretty sure this is a picture of her. It was taken during that time, 1982-83.
A big band from back in the day that stuck it out was Loren Schoenberg. He was kind of a tool, but the band was good. I’d have to get in extra early and set up all the music stands for the band. They were those “Big Band type stands” made from cardboard not the metal ones. Loren could be a real jerk. One time he was in the big room during the day (renting it for $10 an hour) and told me that the band in studio F (right as you walked in the door) was too loud and I’d have to tell them to turn down. It was my favorite Hardcore all girl heroin band Scab. I said “Loren these girls are paying just as much money for you and you won’t be able to hear them once you get into you room and close both doors so chill the fuck out.” I think that might have been the last time he came in.
The End of 38th St
It was the 6th year on 38th St. My 5 year lease was up and I was flying month to month with no lease. My landlord John Iraqi would come up the first of every month to collect the rent and hint that I should look for a new space. He was converting everything to offices and said I didn’t fit with the rest of the building anymore…dah. The writing was on the wall, literally. I started checking the paper for a new space. My morning ritual was a giant cup of coffee and the New York Times real estate section. Many of the ads were the same each day so I could scan the few pages in about 10 minutes. If something fit I would call and make an appointment. Usually I was disappointed. The space was either the wrong shape, the wrong location, or was already to upscale to tolerate the organized chaos which seemed to follow me everywhere in those days. Mostly though I didn’t want to move and more importantly I didn’t believe I would have to move.
A few more months went by. One first of the month, John came up looking a bit disheveled and red in the face. I knew the look. He had been up most of the night drinking. He said “Look, I can’t protect you any more. I’m selling the building. The new owner wants to make a deal with you. Whatever he says, take it.” I said I would meet with him. His name was Mr. Colon. I’m not kidding; OK maybe it was spelled with a K. Anyway, we met at his penthouse office in lower Manhattan. His office had this incredible view over the water. I swear you could see clear out to the ocean. It was me, John, Mr. Colon, and his trophy secretary who took notes the whole time. He offered me 3 months to get out or else. I told him it would take him at least a year to legally throw me out and he wouldn’t be collecting any rent during that time. John looked at me amazed. He pulled me aside and said “Take the deal. You don’t know who you’re dealing with.” My mind was racing. I had a few thousand in the bank but not enough to get, build, and move into a new place. I never thought I would have to move. I hadn’t planned on John selling the building. Now I just admitted I could be out in a year. It was really over.
I went back to the table, sat down and said nothing. Mr. Colon wiped the mustard from his now finished sandwich off his lower lip. It was then I realized he had scheduled me during his lunch hour. I was small fry. He shot an annoying glance at John as if to say, I thought this was going to be done by now. He said, “So do we have a deal?” No, I want one year with no rent. I felt John’s foot under the table. Mr. K said 3 months only and I’ll through in the no rent. John piped in “Take it, Take it!” Back and forth we went fast and furious for what seemed an eternity; was probably only a minute. 11 months no rent. 4 months with no rent. 10months; no 5; 9; 6; 8; 6; 8; 6; 8; 6; then John kicked me under the table again and “6 months no rent” just popped out of my mouth. OK they both said in unison. OK, Game over – he won. He was good. Better than me. But at least now I had the money to move. But to where.
Hold that thought, because at that exact moment, a huge red thunder bolt came out of nowhere shaking the glass office windows. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s the God’s honest truth. The three of them jumped in their chairs. I didn’t move a muscle. Remember, I’m used to loud noises. But it was weird. When I looked out I could only see a couple small clouds, not enough to have created that disturbance.
John was the first to stand up. I waited for Mr K to rise. He did and finally said something nice to me. If I needed help finding a space he would help me or something to that effect. I let him finish, but wasn’t really listening. I stood up, said thank you, and headed for the door. The secretary held out papers in front of me; to sign I suppose. Ignoring her, I turned to Mr. K and said “6 months no rent, I’ll be out” and walked out. I never saw Mr K again.
- Fred P.
Fred was never the most talkative or open guy in the world, in fact he always played his cards very close to the chest. I still don’t know if Fred ever even liked me that much. But at that point I was there with him every day, I wasn’t there much at night (unless we were rehearsing), but in the day it wasn’t as busy. Well it wasn’t a constant cacophony any how. I remember Fred coming in from his house on the lower east side (way before he became a New Jersey land baron), and he said “One word is our future: “Yamamoto”. I asked him what the fuck that meant, he replied “You’ll find out soon enough, just remember Yamamoto”! I don’t even think he told me about the deal he and Iraqui had struck, I don’t even think I knew that we were being kicked out at this point. I should say that Fred may have actually informed me of what was transpiring, I just didn’t register it at the time. My mind was pretty used up at the time. I just remember the cryptic word “Yamamoto”.
- Michael C.
Yo El Dub Bunny, Michael, man, I love you guys! I marveled at your abilities then. I used to see your Branola bread commercial on TV all the time. I was so proud that you worked at the studio. Your first day of work you introduced yourself as Michael Gregg. I never understood that whole story. Pure Prarie League was in Studio A and the whole PA blew up. You jumped right in and helped me switch out almost every cabinet in the place. Some of my fondest memories are hanging out at your apartment in Brooklyn with you and Laurie watching TV. Giant was my social life and you were a part of that. One of my worst times was having your day shift taken away because of noise complaints. But that was reality. It was that or lose the whole place. Giant was a huge headache for me and very stressful. I never knew when the next bomb was going to drop. Paul put the best. “It was like standing under a drain pipe with sewage pouring on your head, and it never stops.” We shared a lot of times. Looking back; they were some of the best times ever.
On a sad note, my sister Betsy died on Dec 29th. I’ve been home since the 12th and had some good chunks of time to talk with and be with her. She was my musical mentor.
- Fred P.
Yamamoto was the Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of the Japanese Navy, (1884-1943)
Actually, Michael, I meant Yamoto, lead ship of a class of two 65,000-ton (over 72,800-tons at full load) battleships, was built at Kure, Japan. She and her sister, Musashi were by far the largest battleships ever built.
My brother Charlie was a model ship builder. He said I should get a space that could become the biggest rehearsal studio in NY. It was partly his influence which caused me to tackle such an impossible task. I was truly possessed.
- Fred P.